The Varying Behaviors of Fathers in the Prenatal Experience of the Unborn: Protecting, Loving and "Welcoming with Arms Wide Open," vs. Ignoring, Unloving, Competitive, Abusive, Abortion Minded or Aborting
In this paper the author explores varying behaviors of fathers during the prenatal life of the unborn from a psychoanalytic and family system perspective, enriched by studies from the field of prenatal psychology. He suggests broadening the meaning of behavior to encompass communications that are not clearly visible, audible, or tangible, and emphasizes the importance of the communication of affect in assessing whether an expression of caring and love is genuine and sincere. This is not only important to adults, but especially so for the unborn, who cannot speak or understand adult language, and who are especially sensitive to picking up on affect. The threat of being aborted is discussed, and the consequences of this in the creation of abortion survivors. It is essential that therapists be alert to the possibility that prenatal dynamics are operative in patients' symptoms and transferences. The use of and understanding of metaphors, polysema, synesthesia, and similes as a measure of the creativity involved in having meaningful relationships is stressed, and note is made of the remarkable change of speech in this direction that occurs when abortion survivors recover. After exploring positive and negative behaviors of men, the author also deals with the phenomenon of depreciation of men in today's society, which makes it difficult for men to find support, respect, and encouragement, particularly in their roles as fathers and husbands. The overall dehumanization of our culture and society has reached a point where love and responsibility have taken second place to narcissism and materialism. This also has affected the relationship between men and women, and their relationship with the unborn. In the closing section suggestions are made for making positive changes to remedy this situation, and in particular to improve the behaviors of fathers - and mothers - in their relationship with the unborn, with each other, and with their families in a rewarding, committed marriage.
KEY WORDS: fathers, prenatal psychology, abortion trauma.
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John C. Sonne, M.D.
John C. Sonne, M.D., a psychoanalyst and family therapist, has written extensively on communication systems, abortion and adoption. In addition to being in private practice, he is Honorary Clinical Professor, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia; Emeritus Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Senior Attending, Department of Psychiatry, Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. Address correspondence to 13910 Swantown Creek Road, Galena, MD 21635.
This paper was presented on 3-16-02 at a conference of the International Society for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine on "Wieviel Vater braucht das Kind?," held in Cologne, Germany from 3-15-02 through 3-17-02. Accepted for publication 7-12-02 in the International Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine.